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Just about everything I made from Miyoko Schinner’s book Artisan Vegan Cheese worked out beautifully for our fondue party.  I wanted to try as much as possible, so I even threw in a couple appetizers and a dessert.

culturing vegan cheeses

A patient human being and cultured vegan cheeses go very well together.

Pictured below is the Brie (p.12).  I wouldn’t say it tasted like brie on its own, but it worked perfectly as a replacement spread for jam and crackers.  It was a pretty thin round… when I made the brie, I thought it should have been poured into one 6-inch round and not two, but the small height actually worked out great for this context.  And I still have another round to save for another occasion. 🙂  I served it with raspberry jam, hot pepper raspberry jam, fig and walnut butter, red chili jam, and prickly pear champagne jelly.  

Then there was the Brie en Croute (p.80) which used the Air-Dried Brie (from p. 39).  Definitely a big hit.  I used 1/3 cup raspberry jam, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and 2/3 cup walnuts as the filling.  It had a classic baked brie taste and went well with the classic Carr’s table water crackers.  (The recipe for the “Mushroom Puff Pastry Bites” at the top of the picture above can be found at the Seitan is my Motor blog here.  We omitted the oil and cut 3×3 inch squares of puff pastry instead of 4×4. They tasted delicious and the crimini mushrooms are perfect for this!)

For dessert, I wanted to try the Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake (p. 115).  It was delicious, with a subtle lemony taste, but I wanted a little more raspberry throughout the cheesecake.  Next time, I think I will pour in half the filling, swirl in some raspberry, pour in the remaining filling, and then swirl the remaining raspberry on top.  Then there were the four fondues. I loved all of them!  Pictured below are the leftovers.  I had planned on having a fifth fondue of Swiss cheese (using the Air-Dried Emmentaler on p. 32) , but it didn’t melt right.  I think if you eliminated the agar and used a bit of carrageenan to thicken it up, it would work better as a fondue cheese.  The taste of the Swiss was spot on, so I definitely will try that at our next fondue!So from the top left I had the Gruyere, Spinach Artichoke, Chipotle Queso, and Sharp Cheddar.  My notes on each:

  • Gruyere (Hard Gruyere, p. 13): Very authentic taste!  Perfect for fondue.  I used the fondue recipe from p. 65 and it worked out great (the recipe is on Miyoko’s blog here… I only used half the wine for kid-friendliness and added more water).  I recommend making roasted Brussels sprouts to dip into this cheese.
  • Spinach Artichoke (used Cashew Cream Cheese, p. 20). For full details and a recipe click here!
  • Chipotle Queso (Low-Fat Chipotle Cheese Sauce, p. 63 or on Miyoko’s blog here): I have made this before and there is a reason for it!  This queso is slightly sweet, smoky, and a crowd-pleaser.  It tastes best with homemade tortilla chips, but for the sake of time, we used store-bought this time around.
  • Sharp Cheddar (Sharp Cheddar, p. 14):  I would really like to encourage people who make this recipe to be patient.  I cultured this cheese in Arizona for 36 hours, so in colder climates realize it could take 4-5 days.  I tasted it everyday and the nutritional yeast flavor does go away and it really does taste like a sharp cheddar.  I melted it with some almond milk and it was perfect.  And please take my advice and buy some soft pretzel rolls for this one.  You won’t regret it!
thanks to kelli for her awesome instagram of the spread!

thanks to kelli for her awesome instagram of the spread!

Vegan Grilled Cheese

Before I went vegan there was one sandwich I was particularly particular about!  My grilled cheese always involved the overly processed American cheese.  It always involved two slices of bread that were buttered on one side and then grilled on a frying pan.  The only healthy part of my sandwich was my switch to whole wheat as I got older.

So when I saw the quick-to-put-together Oat American Cheese (p.50) in Miyoko’s book, I had to try it.  

Oat American Cheese

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In the picture below, the Oat American is on the right, and the leftover cheese from my Sharp Cheddar fondue is on the left.  Clearly, the American on the right is more attractive.  But I have to say I prefer the taste and texture of the Sharp Cheddar on the left.  The Oat American has a lot of flavor (much more so than the dairy counterpart), but is a little too “nutritional yeast-y” to me.  I included the oil in the recipe, and thought it was a little too drippy (I may have melted it too much).

And while I give kudos to Miyoko’s Sharp Cheddar, I still have to say for grilled cheese, my favorite involves the sauce from Veg News’ mac and cheese recipe (click here to see my modified version for grilled cheese).  Probably because it’s not trying to be anything but a delicious sauce. 
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Well there ya go!  Miyoko’s book has clearly inspired me and blown me away with what’s possible in vegan cuisine.  The cheddar, gruyere, and swiss flavors blew me away with their authenticity without tasting fake, processed, or chemical-ish.  And both bries will be a regular part of my holiday repertoire.

The vegan community likes to debate the whole realm of “fake foods” or “imitative foods” vs. whole foods as grown… and I feel like I have a foot on each side of the debate.  If you can create an alternative to dairy or meat that is delicious enough to make someone think that veganism is possible for them, then I think it’s worth serving.   Do I generally admire people more for creating something new with the variety of vegetables we have to choose from?  Yes… but sometimes having an alternative helps people make the switch.  So let’s focus on the big picture.  What you see in this post is a holiday meal, not an everyday meal.  It’s a fun experiment, not a lifestyle.  And I think we should be thankful for people like Miyoko Schinner who are willing to test recipes and spend a fortune on cashews so we don’t have to!

So about the same time I discovered Miyoko Schinner and her vegan buffalo mozzarella recipeWhole Foods had a sale on heirloom tomatoes… and you just can’t ignore a coincidence like that.

This mozzarella was simpler to make than I expected, and very delicious.  For me, It turned out a little softer than the dairy version, but my testers and I didn’t really care because it made for a perfect caprese salad either way.

Oh and Miyoko is coming out with a book called Artisan Vegan Cheese available for pre-order on amazon today, and it will be released on August 8th!  The recipes are rumored to take cultured vegan cheeses to the next level, and according to her blog, a majority of the recipes are made without oil!

Vegan Caprese Salad

Tomatoes: Buy heirloom tomatoes if you can!  As you can see in the pictures, they have a lot more meat to them and don’t fall apart when you slice them.

Balsamic Reduction: Buy some cheap balsamic vinegar, and pour a third to half the bottle in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then simmer over medium-low heat till the vinegar is reduced by half and has a light syrupy consistency.  Let it sit in the fridge for 10-20 minutes and it will thicken up to a maple syrup consistency.

Basil: You can serve fresh basil leaves as shown above or do a chiffonade (click here for a step-by-step tutorial) and sprinkle on top.

Vegan Buffalo Mozzarella: Use this recipe from Miyoko Schinner.  You can also watch her demo it here.  Do not use the oil, and you might want to consider using some more agar flakes because my mozzarella could have been just a bit firmer.

I noticed that the closer you hold your ice cream scoop to the water, the more round the mozzarella balls turn out.

This was really tasty… although just like my pizza, I have to say this had one too many ingredients and less would have been more.  I think I’d save the pear for a side salad, and this sandwich would be perfect. The idea came from here, but as usual, I wanted to remove the 67% fat Daiya and 100% fat Earth Balance!  The jam does have sugar, so I probably won’t buy it again, but I do love that it has a spicy kick to it.

Ingredients:

To serve, top the toasted bread as shown above, although I suggest omitting the pear. Gently smoosh both slices together and warm on a non-stick pan for a couple minutes or in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Slice with a serrated bread knife and eat!

The “Hot Pepper Raspberry Preserves came from AJ’s Fine Foods.  The first time I tried this jam, it was served with cream cheese and crackers… wow was that good!  I think I may have to combine it with Miyoko’s Vegan Brie  and make it “en croute” for a Christmas Day appetizer.  Definitely for special occasions only.

Tempeh Bacon

(inspired by this recipe)

  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp hickory liquid smoke
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • vegetable broth
  • 8 oz tempeh
  • sea salt (optional)*

Combine all ingredients except broth, tempeh, and salt in a 9×13 pan.  Add enough vegetable broth so that that a layer of thinly sliced tempeh can be covered (about 1/2 -3/4 inch high).  Stir with a fork to mix ingredients together.

Slice tempeh into long, thin strips with a serrated bread knife.  Aim for 1/4 of an inch thickness or smaller.  Coat each side of each slice with marinade until all strips are coated as in the picture below.  Marinate for at least an hour or overnight.

Next, gently move a slice of tempeh at a time to a non-stick frying pan.  Brown both sides over med-high heat.  It takes a little longer without oil (just a few minutes) so be patient!

*If you are eating this bacon by itself, I suggest sprinkling some sea salt on this after it is all cooked.  I sprinkled some on just before I put it in my sandwich and I don’t think I would have been able to tell if I had left it out.  

Vegan two cheese pizza: Parmesan Spread and Creamy White Cheese with broccolini, roasted corn, sun-dried tomatoes, and red onion. No Daiya, Teese, or added oils here!

Happy Vegan Pizza Day!

I really wanted to make something extraordinary for Vegan Pizza Day… Generally when I make pizza, it’s on a pita, doesn’t have any cheese, and is really just a quick, easy meal for a weeknight.

So I thought I’d try out a few homemade cheeses for this one.  I have to say, it makes this pizza pretty rich and filling, and I almost think I should have made two smaller pizzas… one with the cheeses and the other with the veggies.  Less is more.

The veggie combination is inspired by California Pizza Kitchen’s Vegetarian with Japanese Eggplant Pizza.  I think omitting the eggplant is the only change I made.  But seriously, these veggies don’t need cheese to be delicious… next time I will use them on their own!

Okay.  Now for the components:

The Crust

Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough.  Made with a mix of whole wheat and regular flour.  I wish it were 100% whole wheat, but hey… it’s delicious, quick, and cheap ($1.29).

The Sauce

3 ingredient pizza sauce…. does water count?

I don’t need a fancy sauce. I added about 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning, 1 Tbsp garlic powder, and water to a can of tomato paste… and really, that’s all it needed! For this pizza, the sauce is like the skinny models on the runway. They can’t be too pretty or voluptuous or they’ll distract people’s attention from the clothes. Same thing here. I just wanted the other components to shine.

Cheese # 1: Parmesan Spread

I’m not sure the name does it justice.  This stuff tastes like parmesan.  It was inspired by a bunch of recipes I found online and this one in particular that made a spread out of the sprinkle stuff.  I made mine oil-free by using cannellini beans.  These beans are awesome… they are light, creamy, and don’t have a strong flavor, so they were perfect for mixing with this parmesan.

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cooked cannellini beans (if from a can, then drained and rinsed)

First make some vegan parmesan.  My new favorite way of making it is using a cheese grater, another great tip from Cathy Fisher of StraightUpFood.com.  First, use the grater to grind the nuts.  Then, in the little barrel where the grated nuts are, mix in the nutritional yeast and salt.  This is one recipe where I would not leave out the salt… parmesan is a particularly salty food, so without it, I just don’t think it tastes right.

This grater is great because it has a little adjustable window. You can reduce the window to a crevice and it’s perfect for sprinkling parmesan at the table!

You can mix this up in a blender just as easily. Just make sure you get the nuts chopped up pretty fine. Blend parmesan and cannellini beans in a blender with 1/4 cup water. If the mixture is not moving, continue to add 1 Tbsp of water at a time, scraping down the sides of the blender, until you get a consistency a bit thicker than a hummus but not as thick as a paste.

Since this spread has a pretty strong flavor, I decided not to put a whole layer of it on top of the pizza sauce. I opted instead for these circles:

Cheese Sauce #2: Creamy White Sauce

This sauce is so creamy and based on my go-to mac and cheese sauce.

Chop the following veggies and steam in a steamer basket in a covered saucepan or pot (filled with about 1-2 inches of water) on med-high heat, until veggies are soft.

  • 1 cup yukon potatoes (if using russet, you will need to peel)
  • 1/3 cup red onion
  • 2 Tbsp shallots or more onion

While the veggies are steaming, blend in your blender:

  • – 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • – 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • – 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • – 1/8 tsp or a few drops of yellow mustard
  • – a few cloves garlic (depending on personal preference)
  • – 1 Tbsp lemon juice

When steamed veggies are soft, add to blender and process.  If mixture isn’t moving/gets stuck, then add 1 Tbsp of water at a time till mixture gets going.  The goal is to add as little water as possible so you aren’t pouring soup on your pizza!

The Veggie Toppings

Under the Creamy white Cheese:

  • broccolini / broccoli raab / baby broccoli, lightly steamed
On top:
  • Trader Joe’s roasted corn (or you can roast your own kernels on a non-stick frying pan)
  •  red onions, chopped
  • sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted a bit

I put most of the veggies underneath the cheese and they kind of got lost, so that’s why I recommend putting most of them on top.

This nacho cheese was wonderful.  Great consistency and flavor.  Just right.

The recipe is from Happy Herbivore (click here for the recipe).  After making the sauce, I added two tomatoes (diced) and half a mini can of diced green chiles.  Both of these veggies added a little extra liquid, so I had to stir for a few minutes more to re-thicken up the sauce.  The chips are La Reina baked no-salt tortilla chips (from Whole Foods, only $2.19 a bag, only ingredients are corn and lime!).

I think next time I will ALSO add:

edit 7/7/12: I made this again, but omitted the cayenne and added 1/2 a chipotle in adobo sauce (click here to see on amazon) with about 1/4 tsp of the sauce added too.  This added a nice smoky, but mild kick.  If you are a spice lover, I say go for a whole chipotle and a bit of the adobo sauce.